Once again, Wendell Clark was a man on a mission when he arrived at Community Blood Center (CBC) Monday, September 12. He chatted pleasantly but briefly with Marilyn Staker, the apheresis recruitment specialist he has known for years then went to sign-in for his appointment.
His 540th appointment to donate blood.
After all those visits, he knows the routine. He rattled off his donor ID number, spelled his name, gave his birth date (he’s 58) and his Eldorado address. With a wink he pointed to the lobby monitor screen that rotates a picture of him throwing out the first pitch at a Dayton Dragons game, a night honoring him as CBC’s Top Active Blood Donor. “There I am,” he said, enjoying the irony.
What he still hadn’t noticed was the small alter assembled in his honor under the monitor. Most prominent in the display was the same photo of his first pitch blown up to poster size, matted, framed and signed by all his friends at CBC. Next to it was a framed 5×7 version of the same action photo, and next to that a baseball signed by all the members of the Dragons minor league baseball team.
When he made that toss his lifetime blood donation count was at 535. His first pitch was the highlight of a special CBC promotional night at Fifth Third Field, July 25, in partnership with the Dayton Dragons. Fans toured a Bloodmobile and the LAB parked on Fifth Third Field Plaza before the game and more than 100 special guest blood donors and their families were in the stands for the first pitch. Wendell and his family then watched the game from a luxury VIP suite.
“My goal is to hit 600 (donations),” he said that night. “But if I can stay healthy, I can hit 800.”
Again, he is a man on a mission – so focused on donation number 540 he didn’t see himself in a framed poster. He did point to the lobby monitor before going back to the donor room and said to Marilyn, “I’d like to get a copy of that.” We were way ahead of him!
We call him our “Iron Man” because of his commitment to giving blood (his blood type makes him a particularly good match for apheresis donations that have helped ill children and cancer patients); his strong health, which allows him to keep an incredibly predictable appointment schedule (and stay on his record donation pace); and finally his quiet, almost shy demeanor. It’s the part of Wendell that makes him the humble “Iron Man” with a heart of gold.
Once he settled into his approximately hour-long apheresis donation (and the paperback he brought to pass the time) we surprised him with his gifts. He was clearly pleased. “I’ll probably take that one to work,” he said of the 5×7 picture. “That will probably go in my living room!” he said pointing to the poster.
Earlier, when he had asked unassumingly about getting a copy of his picture – not noticing the poster version on display – we gave him a tentative “We’ll see what we can do.” Now, with poster in hand and a big smile on his face, he said, “I knew you could get it!”
We’re glad to know that Wendell felt he could depend on us. After all, if there is one thing we have learned, 540 times to be exact, is that CBC – and all in need of the gift of life – can depend on him.